Love, Marriage and Schizophrenia? You Bet!


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This post is to all the people with schizophrenia (in all its forms – paranoid, schizoaffective) who have asked me about love.

There is nothing wrong with being single. Being single can and is a positive choice for a lot of people, but there are many people with schizophrenia who have asked me and confided in me about their hope to partner up, get married, and share their life with another person.

When a society constantly shows people like us as defeated, broken, or in the worst case scenario as monsters, it is hard not to internalize negative messages about yourself. I have heard people of color talk about their own internalized racism. Why would people with schizophrenia, the most stigmatized of the mental illnesses, be any different than people of color when it comes to internalizing the messages we see, hear, and experience every day? We aren’t different; we do the same thing.

I’m here to tell you that hopes and dreams do come true. Schizophrenia doesn’t have to equal loneliness.  Having a severe mental illness doesn’t mean that other people get all the good stuff and there is nothing left for us. Schizophrenia doesn’t mean we are the messages society tells about us. We all know better. We are more. We are talented. We are lovers. We are fighters. We have wisdom. We have humor.

After it all, we are human, and we are worthy of love, and I believe if we want love we have the same chance as anyone else of finding it. I don’t believe for us it is like finding a needle in a haystack, I believe love is out there weaving its magic tail, and we need to find the strings of it and hold on, and from those strings begin to tie together a life. Possibly the life we have always dreamed of, or even better.

I know how hard it is to believe that your soul mate or the love of your life will come along. For me, the love of my life grew out of a long relationship. When I first met JC, he was the type that was a neatnik, and I was a slob. I had a dozen dirty coffee cups in my car, and while I was at work, he would clean out the car, wash all the cups, and leave them in the dish dryer in the kitchen. He put things away, and I tossed them on a chair, the floor, or the bed. I thought we would never make it. But as soon as I got sick, we knew that bigger things than how neat or sloppy we each were at our doorstep.

An episode of psychosis is a wake-up call about what is important and what is superficial. We quickly got past the superficial and started focusing on the big stuff. And the big stuff can ironically be small stuff with big importance, like the little things we do to show our love like making each other coffee, a back or foot rub, and always being the one in the other’s corner, cheering.

I feel like I have a gift for you. It is possible that you already know about this gift, or have seen it. If you haven’t, please do yourself the favor of watching it. It is a romantic story with a character who has schizophrenia. In my mind, it is all of our stories. It is the story I want the world to see. It is a story I can accept. It is a story I can relate to and one that I would tell people to watch if they want to know more about schizophrenia (there are others, but this one, this one…yes, this one). It is free on Roku, and it stars a young Johnny Depp, the name of the film is Benny and Joon.

If Hollywood (one of the worst offenders of stereotypes) can give us a movie about us that makes my heart sing, there is hope. Of course, we know there is always hope for all things, especially love.


Untie the Myths: Shootings and Mental Illness do not go Hand in Hand


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In the weeks since the school shooting in Florida at Stoneman Douglas, we are once again talking about mental health and the treatment of people with mental illness. President Trump has called for more mental institutions, as one of his solutions to the problem of mass shootings. And last week, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said that communities need to have the option of involuntarily committing mentally ill people to reduce crime.

As someone with paranoid schizophrenia, who could be impacted by sweeping law and policy changes, what do I think about these two powerful men and their statements? I think they are both right in their proposals, but the information or assertions that lead to these proposals are inaccurate, based on faulty reasoning, reactionary, and wrong.

President Trump is correct that we need more long-term psychiatric beds in every state in the union. According to The Treatment Advocacy Center in 1955, there were 558,239 psychiatric beds in the United States, and as of 2016, there were 37,679. What does this mean? It means people who are experiencing a mental health crisis may not find a bed, or they may go on a waiting list that has them waiting as long as a month or more for the type of treatment they need.

Attorney General Jeff Session is correct that we need a better system to get people into hospitals. Under the current system, a person must be a danger to themselves or others to be involuntarily committed. As someone who has been psychotic, and in need of treatment that I did not trust (due to paranoia), and I lacked insight into my condition based on a symptom called anosognosia. An involuntary commitment would have helped me get the treatment I needed much faster. When someone is psychotic the length of time that they are psychotic matters regarding recovery, treatment, and the likelihood of future episodes. In other words, the sooner someone gets treatment, the better.

So, all is well in Washington DC regarding attitudes towards mental health? Right? Wrong. The fact that a mass shooting led to these proposals is troubling at the least and harmful at worst. The statistics do not back up either one of these responses to gun violence. According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, only 3 to 5 percent of all violence (including firearm violence) is tied to severe mental illness. In the same article, on their website, AMHCA reports that people with severe mental illness are twelve times more likely to be the victims of violence (including firearm violence) than the general population.

It is easy to blame the mentally ill it is a simple and clean and for most people, perfectly sensible cause of violence. But it isn’t truthful, and the number of people those myths hurt is on the rise every year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) one if five American adults will experience a mental illness, and ten million adults in America live with a serious mental illness. So, are these repeated stereotypes about mental illness and violence hurting someone? Yes, they are hurting a large portion of the adult population in America. They are keeping people from treatment (don’t want to admit I have a mental illness) and keeping people from jobs (people don’t want to hire someone who they believe (although inaccurately) is prone to violence).

We need solutions to mass shootings in America. We also need solutions to mental health in America, but the two things are a separate conversation and tying them together destroys life and productivity; it costs our society and individuals way too much. It’s time to get serious and untie the myths so we can make room for change.



How the Current Environment Mimics Schizophrenia


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I think most Americans, whether they know it or not, are much closer than they realize to understanding the frequently misunderstood thought process of someone with schizophrenia. In fact, some people might be moderately experiencing that “diseased” process. I have spent time for that thought process, colloquially referred to as insanity, on a locked ward. Even though I have had periods of insanity, I also know what sanity is; I can recognize healthy thoughts. But I never thought I would have to white-knuckle my hold on reality because of the prevalence of so many untruths, conspiracy theories, and delusions in the media. Ours is an insane environment of information right now and I know I’m not the only one with a history of mental illness, or not, struggling to stay afloat mentally.

Not long ago, on major networks, we were watching coverage of the shooting in Las Vegas, with interviews of victims, first responders, and other eyewitnesses, stories of injuries, of everyday heroes, of the tragic loss of life. At the same time as these stories were told, social media was alive with conspiracy theories like that the shooter didn’t act alone; it was an inside job, there was no shooting in Las Vegas. Much like the denials that continue to be printed and told and circulate about the Sandy Hook Shooting. And last year, false stories and conspiracy theories brought us Pizzagate – a fake news story about a child sex ring operating out of a D.C. pizza joint.

I have schizophrenia and once believed that Americans traveling to China, in particular people on business, were being forced to work in sweatshops and were the victims of torture having body parts removed and sewn back on – a finger where a toe once was – an arm for a leg. Certain that this was happening, I believed several of my friends and family were dead.

When I had delusions about China, I was sick. I was in need of medical intervention. Of course, someone like me, who is prone to delusions, doesn’t just hold one at a time. I also held the beliefs that the world would end any day, that the government was wiretapping my conversations and spying on me and many other things that might sound familiar in this new, what should I call it? Reality? Environment? Political climate? I search for the words to describe it and to define it. One thing is for certain: reality has changed drastically and is almost unrecognizable from this time two years ago.

When I listened to President Obama, speak it never occurred to me that he was lying. It is possible that I was naïve, but it was a different day and age (even though not so long ago). I don’t know why but for the most part, I trusted him and (just in case you think I only trust Democrats, I trusted George W. Bush). I assume these former presidents may have misled the American people occasionally, but I am reading reports weekly that the current president lies on average of five times a day.

During a regular news cycle and the accompanying dose of social media, each day has more in common now with my symptoms of schizophrenia than ever before. There are the President’s denial of facts, fake news sites, correspondents presenting a skewed view of reality. I have a concern for the mental health of Americans because of my experience of delusions has always been frightening, and conspiracy theories, and “alternative facts” break down our sense of trust not just in governmental agencies and officials but other people and institutions. The current environment has led me to question everything.  And this practice of questioning, checking sources and doubting is exhausting and confusing for everyone, but for me, it is necessary to keep me on solid ground mentally.

In October of 2017, the Miami Herald reported that Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a woman running for Congress in Florida, believes she was taken on a spaceship by aliens. If I told the story that Aguilera is telling, my doctors would change my medication, and it is possible I would end up in a psych ward.

As someone with schizophrenia, I don’t have a choice when it comes to fighting for reality just like the majority of voting Americans didn’t choose this confusing, and almost mind-altering place they find on their televisions, Smartphones, and computers.  To get through this with sanity on their side, Americans may turn to people with schizophrenia for tricks and tools in how to avoid being sucked in by delusions, conspiracy theories, and lies. I never thought I would have advice about reality to give the average American, but I do;  check your sources, don’t take anything at face value, and question everything you hear.  Otherwise, we will all find ourselves in the realm of tin-foil hats, and no one will think it is funny.


Life and the Art of the Slot Machine


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I love to gamble. I am so frugal in every other area of my life that is amazing that I would enjoy sitting down at a slot machine. At the grocery store that I shop at the cashier rings a bell and announces over the loudspeaker if someone saves over $100. I have been that person on three occasions and screamed in glee each time. And yet, I can sit at a slot machine and feed it my money and almost mindlessly watch the reels go around hoping that I will hit the jackpot.

Over our anniversary weekend, my husband and I went to a casino resort. Early one morning, while I was still drinking my coffee, I was playing a Rock-N-Roll Buck machine. The play line had brightly colored bills of various denominations (ones, fives, tens, twenties, fifties, etc.) that have men with nineteen eighty style hairdos. Those bills spin around, and occassionally you get three bonus disks to start the bonus feature.

As I was playing the game, a disk landed in the first playline, then a disk landed in the third playline, and then a disk landed in one of the last play lines. A screen immediately popped up and the words, “Pick a Vault” showed up on the screen. I chose the first one, and a number three showed up. I was happy because three is the highest number of spins you can get. Then a colorful wheel with all kind of prize denominations was visible on the display.

I hit the large, flashing spin button to the right of the other buttons, and the wheel on the screen started to go around and around, and finally slowed down and hit the mini progressive. I was happy. The mini progressive was $17.59. Excited because I still had two more chances, I hit the flashing spin button again and around and around and around went the arrow, and it landed on the grand progressive. The grand progressive was $2029.00. The machine didn’t do anything. When I won the mini progressive, the machine flashed that I had won it. I sat there, with my heart pounding and I kept looking at the arrow pointing at the grand.

I flagged down a casino employee, and he came over, and I told him how I had won the bonus, spun the first time, won the mini progressive, and on the second spin, the arrow landed on grand, and nothing. He called another employee. I told the same story again. They agreed they needed a supervisor. A supervisor arrived, and she took pictures of the screen with the arrow pointed to grand, and she called a “specialist in that machine.” The specialist came to where we were all standing, and I told the story again. They said they would need to call someone else. Another man showed up, and they had their pictures, all of them saw the arrow on grand, and they told me to push the spin button again.

I pushed the spin button, and nothing happened. “Oh!” they almost all exclaimed at the same time. “The machine malfunctioned. Reset the machine,” someone told one of the employees. One of the men bent down, opened the slot machine door and then slammed it hard. The spin button lit up again.

“Okay, hit the spin button again and let’s see if it lands on grand.” I hit that button and watched that arrow go around and around and it landed on $45.00. They said, “You have one more chance!” I hit the spin button, and I don’t even remember what it landed on. By this time I was so hungry for breakfast, so disappointed and disoriented that I wasn’t sure what was happening.

Life lesson: I play the slots with my eye on the jackpot. In life, many people do things with their eye on the goal, but even if you hit the jackpot you can’t be certain it is going to be what you expect, so you better enjoy the process, the little wins along the way are what we should all be shooting for.







Schizophrenia is not a Pass


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Someone I care a lot about was recently visiting my home. It was obvious this person was in a bad mood and wanted to talk to anyone but me. When I would say something, I would get that look that says, “I want to tell you to shut up now!” The look was more like “!@#$ off!”

I’m thankful that I no longer need the approval or attention or appreciation of other people to make me feel okay about myself. I know now that people have moods, feel feelings, and express anger around me and it rarely has anything to do with me. Not to say that no one ever has reason to be mad at me but in most situations, the person’s reaction to me has more to say about them, and what they are feeling about themselves or another situation than it does about me or something I have done. (Of course, it is always good to check in with people and ask them if you did something to hurt them, make them mad, etc.)

Knowing that I am not the center of the universe or the cause for all feeling in it, is a relief. Being able to separate myself from other people (boundaries) and know that I am not responsible for all the people in my life, and how they think and feel is a marvelous place to land (even if it did take me until middle age).  (Of course, if the person we were talking about were my husband, the whole scenario would be different. I am talking here about everyone I care about besides my husband.)

It is great not to personalize everything. Not taking everything personally is fantastic and makes life much more pleasant, and far less dramatic. There is something else hidden in the situation of people treating me as if I am an annoyance to them on occasion. If people treat me like they treat others, and that includes treating others shitty sometimes, it means that person sees me like they do everyone else.

I don’t think of that as a bad thing. For instance, if I was always treated with kindness and tenderness and patience by people who tend to be moody or short with other people, what would that say about how that person feels about me? It would say that person sees me as weaker, or fragile or in need of special attention.

Having schizophrenia is not a ticket to get a pass on bad behavior and in the same way, having schizophrenia is not a pass on having people treat you the same way they treat everyone else. If those of us who have a severe mental illness want to be treated equally, we need to take responsibility for our actions (like learning to say, “I’m sorry,” and accept the consequences for our behavior). It also means we will be on the receiving end of some messy emotions from other people.

I’ll take the good with the bad because the two of them together equal me as a part of a community of people, and that is a step toward normalcy and wellness.

Self-Help, Progress, and Schizophrenia


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I bought two new journals. I have dozens of blank journals with monsters, flowers, and quotes on the covers, for me to fill the pages of, but these two new journals are not blank. One is, Start Where You Are: a Journal for Self-Exploration and the other is, 52 Lists for Happiness.

I don’t know why I am such a sucker for happiness related books, journals, exercises, etc. I don’t think I am unhappy. In fact, I feel happy most of the time. If there were something I would like to improve in my life, it is two symptoms of schizophrenia and the lower back pain I feel. The two symptoms of schizophrenia I would like to lessen are anxiety (because this impacts every area of life) and a lack of motivation. The lower back pain needs no further explanation.

There are all kinds of happiness books. Why is happiness such a big industry in the United States? Is it because most people are not happy? I think that happiness books are like coloring books or self-help books (of any variety). According to Quartz, Goodreads data suggests it is mostly women who read them. (In 2017 self-help was an eleven billion dollar industry.) Maybe we think there must be a way to be happier than we are. Is it the comparisons we make on our social media accounts? Sally and Jessica always seem so much happier than I feel, maybe there is a secret to it, so we consume yet another thing trying to make our way to an ever elusive place of happiness.

The fact that I buy these happiness (self-help) books proves that I am unremarkable. I am an average, college educated, middle-aged, married, middle income, woman, living in an urban environment, and I do average, middle-aged, married, middle income, college educated, urban dweller, woman like-things. The only thing that stands out about me is that I have schizophrenia (of course, this is overly simplistic, there are a million little things about me that make me unique). But the point is, all the stereotypes about schizophrenia don’t leave room, or space, for the truth about the people who live with it. And there are many truths.

Stereotypes are tricky because there is often a small bit of reality to them that make them stick. For instance, has any mass shooter ever had schizophrenia? Yes. Has anyone with schizophrenia ever worn a tin foil hat? Yes. Has a person with schizophrenia ever been violent? Yes. But, are we referring to the majority of people with schizophrenia? No. In fact, those stereotypes refer to a very small number of people with the disease/disorder. Saying these things are true of everyone with schizophrenia is the same as saying all people with schizophrenia are middle-aged women – obviously not even close to true.

There is so much to learn about marginalized people. I never tire of reading articles about people with disabilities, the nuances of racism, the language and struggles of the LGBTQ community and all the articles/work coming out about feminism. This is one of the most frightening (bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, racist) times I can remember living in, but at the same time, there is so much progress by some groups to further our understanding, our acceptance, and the very civil rights of various groups. I hope that schizophrenia doesn’t get left in the dust. I hope that those of us with schizophrenia will keep in step with other marginalized groups and find our feet further along the path; the path that leads to better lives for all of us.  Somewhere in that statement, there is happiness.


007, Schizophrenia, and Writing


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I type out the last sentence, sit back, take a sip of my coffee and read the whole essay through one more time. “I think this is good,” I tell myself. I make sure to save it one more time. It is under the file on my computer that no one else sees, the one named after the James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only.” I sing a few words from the theme song out loud and try not to think how my work, probably my best work, is in that file that only I will see.

I once tried to post one of the files from “For Your Eyes Only” on my blog, but I couldn’t stop the racing thoughts. The article was about a company that makes video games. I thought one of their games was demeaning to people with schizophrenia. I wanted to have my voice heard. I wanted to publish my views on the game so others could read it and decide for themselves. I wanted to express another side of their story. The article was up for approximately one hour before the thoughts about internet trolls and how they make death threats and harass writers they don’t agree with defeated my publishing attempt.

This past year is different from every year prior. I watch the news every day. I feel strongly about and am outraged by many things. There are essays and articles that I don’t see written about the hypocrisy of so many politicians. I am a Christian and the things some of the most vocal Christian are saying about politicians being “ordained by God,” make me feel like Christianity has fractured more than just Methodist and Lutheran – there are fundamental beliefs that some people hold that are in direct opposition to the ones other’s hold. At this point, it is clearly a separate religion. I have an essay about it, but I fear to take a stand against the Christian Right.

So many people romanticize being an artist and having a severe mental illness. I once did the same thing. I thought reading the poems of Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath made me dark and edgy. I thought artists needed to be dark and edgy, especially poets which is what my younger twenty-something-self desired to be. I used to tell people that I thought I could drive myself over the edge, make myself crazy  – like really crazy, like “Girl Interrupted,” crazy. That was all before I had my first psychotic episode. That was all before there was no more “acting” edgy, or “acting” dark. My mind was dark, and I wouldn’t call hallucinations, delusions, or suicidal tendencies “edgy.”

My first diagnosis was bipolar disorder. I still held on to some of the romance of mental illness – brilliance. I looked up every famous person with bipolar disorder. I read books about them. So much talent, so much intelligence. I might not be able to play at being edgy anymore, but I could show signs of intense creativity and intelligence. I wanted so hard to believe like so many people do, that mental illness is somehow a gift. Gift of the gods they say. I gave up all notion of romance when I ended up in a hospital room with doctor and nurses using paddles to start my heart. This illness, this disease of the mind, was trying its hardest to kill me and as far as I can tell there is no great evidence of creativity or genius after death.

I started taking my medication regularly, even though on the medication I no longer felt like writing poetry, or writing anything for that matter. I put the romance behind me to stay alive, and that included my desire to be a poet and identify with the ill geniuses, creative and otherwise. I married my boyfriend and lived a pretty quiet life for some years. My psychiatrist at the time said I was “too well” to be mentally ill and said that my previous psychotic episodes were caused by trauma. He took me off all medication. Within one year, I was having conversations with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I believed the second coming was just days away and I spent six months believing I was a healer. I made cakes. I made more cakes. I made three cakes a day. I gave them to the mailman. I gave them to everyone living in our apartment building. I believed my cakes could cure anything from cancer to MS. I wanted everyone well. The hall of our building smelled like a bakery for months. I ended up in the E.R. with suicidal thoughts, and that led to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

It took almost twenty years to discover the root of my problem, but here we were, my husband and I, with a diagnosis that seemed bigger and scarier than either of us knew how to handle. The two words paranoid and schizophrenia even sound scary. Having them placed on me as an identifier as in, “I am someone with paranoid schizophrenia,” was almost more than I could take.  But as with any illness, you keep moving forward – a step here, a movement there, a jump, and then without realizing it you have been living with that illness for a month, six months, a year, ten years, and you go on.

Even though I had received my bachelor of arts long ago, I was never one to give up learning. I enrolled in several poetry classes at UCLA’s Online Extension and Gotham Writer’s Workshop, and I even joined a local poetry group. I was rusty, but I wasn’t dead. I started publishing again and getting support and feedback from poets I trusted and respected. I applied and was accepted to an MFA program.

Once in the MFA program, I was required to take classes beyond poetry. Having never thought of an idea for a novel in my life, I avoided the fiction classes and took a non-fiction class. I fell in love with the longer form. I fell in love with writing essays instead poems. I asked to change majors but found out I would have to start the program over. I wasn’t willing to do that. I kept taking writing classes online, but this time they were non-fiction classes instead of poetry classes. I started to publish some of those pieces. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to write about what I saw, how I felt, and responses to popular culture and the world around me. I thought my biggest obstacle would be going public with my new diagnosis, but that wasn’t it. My biggest obstacle was a symptom of the illness I had thus far been hiding.

I went public with my diagnosis in an essay posted to Facebook by a mentor and friend. The post was how all of my friends and my husband’s family found out about me having paranoid schizophrenia. My husband and I planned for a year before we agreed to the announcement date. We thought people would disappear. We thought people would be angry, confused, and we braced ourselves for people making an exodus from our lives. Well, people were far more graceful than we could have imagined and if those two words that make up my diagnosis scared anyone away, we haven’t missed them, but what all this writing and exposing of myself did was make me hyper-aware of my symptoms.

Paranoia means I can’t publish essays that devel into my feelings about this president or any other. I am terrified of openly criticizing corporations; I fear their reach and power is so much bigger than a person like me. I’m not currently suffering from delusions like that the government is wire taping me (I have believed this and feared it in the past), or that I am in contact with aliens or hearing the voice of God. I do not hear voices at all. But I do live in a fragile state where I am afraid of what people will do to me if I oppose them, challenge them, or offend them.

Living with paranoia is my biggest challenge as a writer/artist. Not being able to fully express myself because I fear being targeted by internet trolls, the government or large corporations can keep me silent, and it can kill creativity. I might not be able to speak up, but I’m grateful my creativity isn’t dead.  The proof of it is for my eyes only in a folder that sits on my hard drive where only me and James Bond, or someone posing as him, can gain access.

Would you be Surprised to Learn that some People who are Mentally Ill have Desirable Qualities that can be hard for Others to Achieve?


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Before going to bed last night I told my husband, “I ate six Girl Scout Cookies for dessert.” He said, “I bet that made you happier than a big diamond ring.” “It did,” I said. “It really did.”

There is very little that makes me happier on a daily basis than a full refrigerator and a closet full of toilet paper. (Of course, if something happens to my husband like he gets an award or a promotion, I am happier, but that doesn’t happen on a regular or consistent basis). There is something about having fruits, vegetables, cheese, beans, and plenty of other things to eat, and the basics like toilet paper that make me feel secure, comfortable, stable and protected. Having these things make me feel as if no matter what else is happening in the world (and these days there is enough bad news to cause even optimists to spiral into depression), I will be okay.

I am a simple woman with simple pleasures, and that is why all the vacations, new cars, beauty procedures, etc. that are on parade on social media don’t bother me. I don’t want for anything. (I’m not entirely above envy, though. There are times when people publish their writing in magazines that I want to publish in, and I feel a twinge of envy).

I feel as if my personality, my desire for very little, has helped me master the spiritual principle of happiness. If we don’t want much, it is hard to be eaten by greed, desire, envy, consumption, and the material world. I don’t think I am above or better than anyone for being like this; I think it comes from hardship and trauma. If a person has suffered a great deal of trauma in their life, the little things, which don’t seem like much to others, can take on more meaning. For me, having an abundance of basic needs (food, toilet paper, comfortable clothes, a house, etc.) is all I need to feel taken care of, and that is not true for so many people.

I can understand running up your credit card because you can’t make ends meet every month and you need to eat, but I can’t understand going into debt for acrylic nails, a new pair of jeans, a trip to the Bahamas, dinner at a five-star restaurant, or a cosmetic medical procedure. I know we live in a culture where people think what they have, and what they can buy defines who they are, but I am not that way, and it is a part of me that I am thrilled over.

People might find it unusual or surprising that someone with schizophrenia could like a part of themselves, or feel as if they have mastered a spiritual practice that helps them maintain peace of mind and happiness that eludes so many others, but it’s true. It feels amazing to know that schizophrenia is not all of me.

I’m the kind of woman that would take a chocolate mint cookie (okay, maybe six) over a diamond ring, and I think that quality defines me more than a diagnosis of mental illness.


What We Give, Say, and Do


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I had an experience on Monday that left me reeling. I’m not going to explain exactly what happened, but I will say that I felt ignored, pushed aside, and avoided. It was the first time I was meeting this group of people, and they were all aware that I have schizophrenia. I have never felt like having schizophrenia caused people to treat me differently, so this was a new situation for me.

It is clear when someone comments with something like wacko, sicko, psycho, etc. that they have ignorance and possibly intolerance about people with a mental illness. If someone ignores you or avoids you, it isn’t obvious why they are doing that. For example, I can’t say with one hundred percent certainty that people were avoiding me or pushing me aside because they didn’t want to interact, recognize, or give space to the person with schizophrenia.

I spoke to a coach/mentor friend of mine and told her the whole story, and she said she didn’t think it was intentional. I know her advice and her perspectives are good ones and healthy ones, but there is a nagging feeling in me that says, what I felt was real, and true, and valid. (Just to make a note she wasn’t trying to invalidate my feelings, she was trying to be objective).

Now that I am thinking about rejection, there was a time, on a psych ward, that the attendants made me feel less than. It was after I was admitted, late at night and I was in my room. The attendants were obviously going over my paperwork, and one of them said, “Did you see where she works and what she does?” Someone else answered, “Yes, she is a social worker for the State.” The first person replied, “I hope that doesn’t happen to us!”

At my job, during the day, I would have been these women’s equal, their coworker, or even someone with more authority than them, but while I was in bed, on a psych ward, I was someone they didn’t want to be. I was someone they hoped they would never become.

I am going to try to be more aware of people in social settings I find myself in. I am going to look for those people that hang on the fringes, that sit by themselves, that seem awkward, anxious, or scared. And if I know something about someone like that they are battling an illness, or have recently lost someone, or anything that can make other people feel uncomfortable talking to them, I am going to gravitate in their direction.

I know you have heard it a thousand times, I have heard it that many too, but it truly is the little things that make the difference. I am capable of small things, and let’s hope those small things I give, and that we all give, turn into the force that keeps others from feeling lost or alone.

No matter what, we all have the little things to give. Give them with wild abandon.



I Need to Drop the Comparisons and Just be Me.


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I watched a video today by a life coach who has spent twenty years working with what she called, “creatives.” Her message was about getting unblocked and doing the work you are meant to do. One of the things she said was that some people have all the tools and all the resources, but they don’t do the work. I thought to myself, “that’s me!”

I have a writing coach; I participate in many Facebook groups for writers, I go to writing conferences, I buy resource books about writing, I have a writing buddy, and on and on but I have a difficult time sitting down in my chair every day to write.

I feel like I am one of the best-prepared writers that I know of who isn’t producing essays, or articles, blog posts, or working on a book. Boy, do I have the tools, though. At this point, I could easily be a writing coach for someone else, and I make an excellent writing buddy that is good at sharing resources, but there is resistance on my part to putting words on the page.

When do you blame the lack of motivation which is a symptom of schizophrenia, and when do you accept that you have something else going on? That is the thing with schizophrenia; it is hard to determine if you are experiencing a symptom or a variety of symptoms or if there is something else holding you back, causing anxiety, keeping you at home, etc.

I don’t think anyone thinks it is easy to have a mental illness, but the things that are difficult about it aren’t always obvious.  I think everyone would recognize that psychosis, or hallucinations, or hearing voices, etc. are difficult to manage. But the other symptoms, like anxiety, depression, social isolation, lack of motivation, weight gain (from medications), health problems (also from medications) make creating a “normal” life challenging too.

I know that a lack of motivation is a common symptom of schizophrenia, but when I look back over my days where I haven’t accomplished much, I think to myself, “You are lazy.” When I compare myself to other writers, I tell myself, “You should be doing that too! Look at them; they are so much more accomplished than you.”

I think that self-talk is possibly the biggest hurdle of all because in that self-talk is the comparison of me to others. Most of the people I know on social media and in real life do not have schizophrenia (a few of them do), and yet, I find that I compare myself to them all the time. Comparing ourselves to others is never a healthy pass time, but it can be extremely detrimental when you have a giant obstacle to overcome that many people do not.

I like to pass myself off as someone without a mental illness. I like to blend into a crowd or participate in everyday activities with others, but the truth is, I can’t always do that. I am not capable of planning out a day and anticipating what my symptoms will be. I have good days and bad days. I have days where I am overrun by symptoms and days where I am almost symptom-free. How then, with this reality can I compare me to someone else…apples to oranges.

I don’t know what it is like to work from home with small children or to work from home with chronic physical illness; I only know what it is like to be me; a person with schizophrenia who likes to imagine nothing is holding her back. Well, there is a hurdle I have to jump every day, most people have one, but if it isn’t the same height as mine, or the same width as mine and my legs are shorter, and I can’t run as fast, is it the same hurdle we are jumping? Nope. I need to learn to jump my hurdles and stop looking in the other lane at the runners who are faster or can jump higher than me.